Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Give Up

This morning as I walked to work my iPod (in shuffle mode) played a Peter Gabriel song, “Don’t Give Up.” Its title seemed the perfect follow up message to our Lighthouse seminar ”iPad, iPhone, I Vote“ on Wednesday evening.

We focused on the universal accessibility in New York City’s new voting machines and in two of Apple’s most popular products. The turnout was impressive and the crowd was interested and enthused. I did however come to the realization that my own mostly joyous perspective on these technological developments was not shared by all.

I do understand those feelings, I’ve experienced them myself many times in relation to some of the assistive technology products I have encountered that I found extremely disappointing and obscenely expensive.

There is something so lovely and so inclusive about going to my local polling place and being able to cast my vote privately and independently. There is something glorious about texting from my iPhone and searching the web on my iPad – just like everyone else. The positives far outweigh the negatives, removing barriers vision impairment can create.

Of course there will be a poll worker who doesn’t know how to plug in the headphones. Don’t give up! There will be someone at the Apple Store who does not know that you can get One to One Training for the iPhone and iPad without the purchase of a Mac. Don’t give up. You would be surprised how you can turn a “no” into a “yes” – if you keep asking. Don’t give up.

Universal access is empowerment and the more we use it the better it will get. Don’t give up!

For more information on the seminar and links to some very useful references, click here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stump the Genius

A few days ago I encountered a little glitch when using the accessibility feature Voice Over in iPhone 4. Because I have had an exceptionally good experience with my Apple products, especially my iPhone 3GS, I just assumed I was once again playing “Stump the Genius.”

It’s a fun game, and it is not meant to make the Genius look bad. The game was launched in my head when I first ran into, and could not get out of, touch typing in the iPad, and again when I lost the “spoken menus” in both my iPod Nanos. Come to think of it, “Stump the Genius” always involves accessibility, and that is because it is a rare Genius that really knows Apple Accessibility.

So I’m trying to help a lovely friend get comfortable entering contacts with multiple phone numbers into her new iPhone 4. Yes, that would be the iPhone 4 I told her she just could not live without. We found it was not possible to enter multiple phone numbers while using Voice Over. Her husband, however, discovered that this feature did work just fine in Zoom.

Informed by my past experience (Just Genius) I have learned not to take no for an answer. I’m asking for the fix to a problem and never feel satisfied without a solution.

When we pulled up two stools at the Genius Bar, I was certain we would be walking out happy. It quickly became clear that our Genius was not aware of this iPhone 4 Voice Over problem. My friend looked at me and said proudly, “I think we’re teaching the Genius something he doesn’t know.” I smiled and shook my head in agreement. Still I was confident that he would figure it out.

After several consultations and a fair amount of searching their Geniuses explained why this was not working – something to do with database interaction that I did not understand. No cure yet available, the only way around the glitch, for a Voice Over user, was to input your multiple fields in contacts by computer and sync back to the phone.

Although it is never a win, I felt sure we had stumped the Genius. I was wrong.

I sent several email messages to the accessibility group at Apple, where I usually get the answers I’m looking for. This time I was not prepared for the polite acknowledgement I received quickly in response, it said politely, “This is a known issue that our engineers are looking into. Thanks for your feedback.”

I was very disappointed – not sure if I should continue to recommend the iPhone to people in need of Voice Over. And, not sure if I should upgrade my iPhone software and deal with this glitch. Would the benefits of the new version be worth the loss of this feature (temporarily)?
I haven’t quite made the decision, but I’m leaning toward the update. I asked a couple of iPhone Voice Over aficionados – and they seemed unfazed by this problem as they sang praises to new features like “Touch Typing” and the improved speed and ease. It may be a bit of a trade off – but still well worth the gains. We shall see.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Street Smart...Or Not

Something is happening in the streets of New York lately and it's probably happening in your town too. Have you noticed people fixated on the electronic device in their hand -- not noticing you at all?

At first I felt surely it was because I did not see them coming upon me, but then I realized they did not see me either. It has caused me many times to LOL, actually happy to know it is not my lack of sharp eye sight causing this near-miss. I bet this is happening to everyone. I mean Oprah did not establish the "No Phone Zone" for nothing. "Crack Berry" is not just a cute play on words. We are way too enamored with our wireless devices.

It’s funny because I have a slight advantage here – I can usually see the person buried in their iPhone before they see me. It’s another kind of vision impairment. The good news is – it’s correctable!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Field of Dreams Moves Forward

With an impressive vote of 348 to 23 last Monday, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101), authored by Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

This bill outlined in my post A Field of Dreams will potentially set the stage for universal access, and that means providing alternatives to visual access, namely audible access. So in this dream cable companies would make their program guides and selection menus accessible to people with impaired vision, and provide descriptive narration for programming. It would mandate mobile phone companies to make web browsers, text messaging, and e-mail on smart phones fully accessible, among other things.

Now it moves to the Senate, in a related bill, S.3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and reported out by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Yes, it is ambitious and these are just a few first steps. God only knows what the legislation will look like when all is said and done, or how long it will take. But, I am a believer that it will come out right because the fact is these changes make telecommunications better for everyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

iPad, iPhone, I Vote

You are invited to join us for a LITE Seminar:

iPad, iPhone, I Vote

Don’t miss this chance to bring yourself up-to-date on Universal Access. Learn from a panel of iPad and iPhone users about Apple's built in accessibility features, Zoom and Voice Over. Learn from NYC's Board of Elections about the new accessible voting machines - and try one out.
Date: Wednesday, August 25
Time: 6:00 - 7:30 pm
Location: Lighthouse International 111 East 59th Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues)NYC

Seating is limited! Please click here now to RSVP.

Lighthouse International